Tareq Mohamed ENTR101: Social Entrepreneurship November 29, 2013
In recent years there has been increased interest in social entrepreneurship and the social sector. However, do to the wide range of activities, people, and organizations that consider themselves socially entrepreneurial, there hasn’t been an agreed upon definition of social entrepreneurship (Social Enterprise Institute , 2009). So what does “social entrepreneurship” mean? What does it take to be a social entrepreneur? It means a different thing for different people, and it’s important to be aware of the political and scholarly motivations behind definitions (Deakins & Freel, 2009; 249). Thus the aim of this essay is to identify and explain the main characteristics of the social entrepreneurship approach using theory and examples. The paper begins by explaining the meaning of entrepreneurship and having a social mission, it then goes on to discuss the financial characteristics as well as innovation, risk taking, ceasing opportunities, and resourcefulness.
To understand this concept we will first look at the ‘entrepreneurship’ part of social entrepreneurship. The term entrepreneur originated in French economics and it means ‘undertakes’, as in someone who undertakes a certain activity (Dees, 1998; 1). Dees draws on historical economists, Joseph Schumpeter and Jean Baptiste Say, to define entrepreneurs as the agents of change in the economy that create value. He then expands on this theory by referring to contemporary scholars, Drucker and Stevenson, to add that what differentiates entrepreneurs is their innovation and ability to exploit opportunities (Peredo & McLean, 2005).
Building on Schumpeter’s definition, social entrepreneurs are ‘agents of change’ with a social mission. Not every person who starts a small business is an entrepreneur. For instance if a person opens another convenience store in town, it is not entrepreneurial, as there is nothing innovative or change-oriented about it. The same thing applies to non-profit organizations and charities. If you are just going to find donors so that you can send food to Africa, they’re not making any social changes nor are they increasing social value. Social entrepreneurs should resolve and eliminate problems and meet the needs of society, rather than just treating the symptoms. One of the major issues in Nigeria is unemployment, as more than 90% of graduates are not able to find permanent jobs. So Ajegungle decided to teach and help highly skilled Nigerian individuals grow their own small business (Sloan, 2013). This benefits the community by meeting the needs of society rather than reducing it.
The social mission is at the core of the social enterprise and all decisions and opportunities are perceived and assessed according to that mission. Social entrepreneurs set out to help the society by using business-based methods and “are interested in finding solutions to socio-economic problems that combine economic, social, and ecological goals into a triple bottom line” (Deakins & Freel, 2009; 248). Social goals can vary from saving lives, sharing wealth, decreasing global warming, connecting people, and creating comfort and convenience. In a broader sense they are creating sustainable improvements to society (DTI, 2003). So for example, Camara’s mission is to use technology to improve education and livelihood skills in disadvantaged communities of Africa. It determined that it would be more sustainable to train teachers and schools how to teach using technology, instead of just giving them computers (Camara, n.d.). So instead of a one-off impact, these social enterprises aim at having long-term impacts.